MADISON, Wis. – Two Wisconsin Army National Guard brigade headquarters units recently participated in Warfighter Exercise 22-1, a multicomponent exercise involving active-duty and reserve units in the United States and Europe.
The 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) and the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB) spent the nine-day exercise Sept. 27 to Oct. 6 at Fort Riley, Kansas, which hosted the U.S. units. The V Corps' main command post was at Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany. The exercise was the certifying training event for V Corps, which was reactivated in October 2020 and is expected to be fully operational next month. The 157th MEB was assigned to V Corps for the exercise.
Col. Matthew Beilfuss, commander of the 157th MEB, said the exercise also included two division staffs and up to 12 brigade staffs in a two-week, high-intensity computer simulation. The 32nd IBCT was a subordinate unit to the 34th Infantry Division for the exercise.
"The 34th Infantry Division consisted of two armored brigade combat teams, two infantry brigade combat teams and an expeditionary combat aviation brigade," said Col. Jeffrey Alston, 32nd IBCT commander. "Many observers were surprised that there were brigade combat teams at this warfighter exercise, as it was intended for divisions."
Alston said it was evident how much the warfighting functions of each echelon were intertwined.
"The artillery needs a tremendous amount of sustainment to keep up the fight," Alston said. "[The fire direction center] relies heavily on intel operations to conduct the targeting process. [Combat units] needed fires and intel in order to successfully conduct movement, protect its combat power and maneuver to destroy the enemy when that time came. The efforts to synchronize all warfighter functions involves a lot of science and a bit of art and demands the utmost in skill and knowledge from across the battle staff."
As the U.S. military shifts from the counterinsurgency tactics of the past two decades toward large-scale contingency operations, warfighter exercises provide valuable rehearsals.
"The computer simulation does a good job pacing operations and testing the ability of the headquarters at each echelon to produce actionable orders, monitor execution, and react based on enemy locations," Beilfuss said.
"There are still some learning gaps to fill in," Alston observed. "It spans from terminology, tactics, techniques and procedures, problem approaches, and being able to think in terms of 24-hour, 48-hour and 72-hour operational cycles [rather than] weeks or months of counterinsurgency. For many of our junior Soldiers and officers, counterinsurgency is all they know."
Alston directed his staff to ask questions, be curious and learn during the exercise.
"The command post exercise and warfighter exercise is where the staff will gain the most experience, outside of an actual deployment or conflict," Alston said. "It was incumbent upon us to leverage every single minute of the experience to improve ourselves and learn both as individuals and as a team."
This was the seventh Warfighter exercise the 157th MEB has participated in over the past five years.
"The Warfighter designers are very eager to have MEBs participate," Beilfuss said. "The Army has fewer MEBs than divisions and corps, so there are quite a few invites to these training events."
Beilfuss said the Warfighter is ideal for training MEB headquarters staff as the exercises use the maneuver enhancement brigades according to doctrine. Maneuver enhancement brigades manage support areas for divisions or corps — the area between front-line forces and division or corps headquarters. Maintaining this terrain and protecting the force in the rear areas allow division or corps units the freedom to maneuver to support front-line operations.
"Success [in a Warfighter exercise] means the brigade headquarter staff better understand their roles and how it connects and feeds information and analysis across the staff, and to and from higher headquarters and subordinate units," Beilfuss said.
Alson said he was pleased with his staff and with the exercise support.
"The Red Arrow did very well at the exercise," he said. "I am confident we are a more ready and experienced staff from Warfighter 22-1."
Rebecca Ives contributed to this report.